T H E H O N E Y J A R
One hundred years after the strange one
lay down dripping in darkness,
the soldered seals were worked
with picks and hammerfall.
The break of bronze welled in the chamber.
The elite traders swayed
like dying pendulums against the walls,
their heads following the hands of them
who chiseled in exact strokes by torch.
Then the pendulums gave out―the men’s eyes
froze, heads hummed, as the Arabs lifted the stone
lid of the honey jar.
Looking into the container, through the pip
thick with amberish transparency,
there, as if in death’s hard yellow womb,
the mellified man lay folded and macerated.
There the honey deepened the divine construction.
The wasted stomach, once for melting down what fruit
the world gave it, grew a brown fig
Merchant, toiler, trader―all alike and simple then
lurched souls and the bodies’ cold
came suddenly from cellar or from moon,
the underground-of-man, the sea.
The eyes had a look of meteor, as a distant color
come too near―the Arabs turned their faces
into further corners of the chamber
to feign cool waiting while they breathed.
The tradermen crowded the mouth
of the stone, to measure out their portions,
all sinew and gaunt, reek of camel-back,
Those shriveled orbs did worse than a mummy.
For each man measuring the corpse
found that day, and each thereafter,
some lingering stink of the living.